Subaru's small crossover gains a new trick with the launch of the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Read CNET's full review.
The XV is based on the same platform that underpins the Subaru Impreza, so it's not surprising that the crossover resembles the hatchback in style and dimension.
Our example arrived in a metallic hue called Plasma Green. This color is unique to the Hybrid model.
The hybrid model is slightly more powerful and more efficient than the standard model...at least, on paper it is.
In practice, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid struggles to justify its additional cost and complexity over the non-hybrid model.
Under the hood, the 2.0-liter Boxer engine is augmented by an electric motor. Subaru's hybrid system makes use of two lead acid batteries under its hood.
Under the rear storage floor, you'll find yet a third battery. This is a 0.55-kWh NiMH pack that supplies the juice for the electric motor.
The electric motor is integrated into the Subaru's continuously variable transmission. This is the only transmission option for the XV Hybrid.
It should go without saying, because this is a Subaru, but the XV Crosstrek Hybrid features the automaker's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.
The CVT doesn't use gears, but the driver can drop into a "Manual" shifting mode and select from six virtual ratios using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
At the top of the dashboard is a multifunction information display (MID) that puts a variety of information about the fuel efficiency and hybrid state near the driver's field of view.
The driver toggles between the MID screens with a set of buttons on the steering wheel.
One of the most interesting screens is the Fuel Savings display, which shows how much time the hybrid system has spent in fully electric operation and how much fuel it has saved. These numbers include time spent with anti-idling Start-Stop function activated.
Though Subaru developed this hybrid system in-house, it has the same "Engine Start Stop" button as the Prius.
The basic stereo isn't much to look at and its sound quality isn't much to brag about, but the spartan setup offers minimal distraction.
Standard audio sources include a USB port with iPod connectivity, an auxiliary input, a single CD player, and AM/FM radio tuning.
The only driver aid tech is a standard rear camera that displays its feed on the MID screen when reversing. It doesn't have blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, or adaptive cruise control.
Instrumentation is a simple, two-gauge affair. There aren't any advance functions for the integrated monochrome trip computer; that's the MID's job.
The Hybrid's cabin is quiet thanks to decent amounts of insulation, the available electric assist, and the CVT's tendency to keep the engine speed low independent of the vehicle's road speed.
Steering feel is light, but not overboosted. I'm a fan of the Impreza chassis's ride quality, even if the XV Hybrid's performance isn't very fun.
The hybrid can be driven under full electric power at speeds up to 25 mph. Doing so requires a very soft touch and a bit of luck.
However, because the hybrid battery is so small, the electric-only range is extremely limited.
As a result, the EPA estimates that the XV Hybrid is only good for about 31 mpg combined. I fared worse than that during my test.
The Toyota Prius V and Ford C-Max each boast about 40 mpg combined estimates, but neither of these wagons features all-wheel drive nor can they match the Subaru's 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
The XV Hybrid features standard smart keyless entry and a push-button starter.
The XV keeps things simple. No HID headlamps and no LED daytime running lights. So the additional complexity of the hybrid power train is odd, especially considering the moderate (3-4 mpg) fuel economy gains.
Roof rails are standard, completing the XV's active-lifestyle-friendly image.
Perhaps the strongest competitor to the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the non-hybrid variant, which features similar power, similar efficiency, and a hair more cargo room, and is significantly cheaper.